Photos & blog by: Haley Dumont
Walking Home: The Zealand Bonds Traverse, Day One
The Zealand Bonds traverse is one of the most spectacular hikes in the White Mountains. Not only are these peaks remote and wild, they offer some truly incredible views. Beginning in Twin Mountain NH at the Zealand trailhead, you hike 21 miles through the wilderness and end at Lincoln Woods trailhead in Lincoln. I have lived in the Lincoln/North Woodstock area for 2 and a half years now, so I like to think of it as walking home for me.
This particular adventure is typically done with a partner or a small group due to the fact that you need a car spot, but in this case I went solo. I was fortunate enough to have a friend pick me up at Lincoln Woods and drop me off at Zealand trailhead so I could just walk back to my car. Some people choose to do this hike in a day and just start early but I chose to do it as an overnight backpacking trip. There is a campsite run by the AMC that is 9 miles from the Zealand trailhead that allows you to break it up into two days. The Guyot campsite is nestled on the shoulder of Mt. Bond and for $10 per night it offers a shelter, tent platforms, a composting privy, water source, bear boxes and a caretaker staffed by the AMC to look over operations at the campsite.
Before even beginning this hike there is a lot of research involved. It is incredibly important to check the weather for the higher summits, I find myself checking the weather multiple days in advance and checking it daily. There is always a level of danger when you are hiking in the higher summits of the White Mountains because the weather can change so quickly here. It can also be very deceiving in the valley, where it could be 80 degrees with light winds. However, in the higher elevations it is typically much cooler, the wind is stronger and you are more exposed to the elements the higher you climb. I generally use these websites for checking the weather: https://www.mountain-forecast.com/ and https://trailsnh.com/tools/wx.php
I had been watching the weather and hoping for two days of good weather and I got pretty lucky. I left my plans with my brother and co-workers in case anything happened. For safety, I leave a map with the trails I plan on taking outlined, where I’ll be staying, what time I think I would be returning to my car and I try to check in with them when I have service. This hike includes 4 of New Hampshire’s 48 4,000 footers and is relatively challenging due to its distance.
Starting at Zealand trailhead, you hike 2.5 easy miles on old logging roads through beautiful forests, walking by beaver ponds and babbling brooks. On this day I was lucky enough to spot a moose in the water right off the trail! Soon you approach the Zealand Falls Hut which is run by the Appalachian Mountain Club as a back country lodging facility. Here you can refill your water bottles, use the rest rooms or buy some fresh made snacks prepared by the Hut Croo **it is important to note here that this is the last place where you can refill your water without using a filter**.
Directly in front of the Hut is Zealand Falls, then begins the climb up the Twinway Trail. In my experience the hardest part of this hike is the section between the Zealand Falls hut and Zeacliff, which is my next stop. After about a mile and a half you approach a right hand turn in the trail where there is a small sign that reads “VIEW”. If you take the small spur path on the left of the trail you will soon find yourself on the Zeacliff outlook, which boasts an excellent view of the Pemigewasset Wilderness. Zeacliff is one of my favorite spots in the White Mountains, and if you ever find yourself out there, you would see why. After a quick stop at Zeacliff to admire the views and eat a quick snack its time to get back on the trail, you are about half way to the campsite at this point.
Beyond Zeacliff there is a moderate climb to Zealand Mountain, the first 4,000 footer of this hike and unlike the other mountains you will summit along the way, this mountain has no views. There is a short spur path on the Twinway on the right that leads you to the true summit of Mt. Zealand, where there is a small clearing and a really neat sign. After you retrace your steps to the Twinway you begin do descend a little between Mt. Zealand and Mt. Guyot. Soon you will pop out above tree line and enter the alpine zone.
At the junction of the Twinway and Bondcliff trail, you take a left and continue to the summit of Mt. Guyot, which despite being over 4,000 feet, does not meet the requirements to be on the list of 48 4,000 footers. Regardless of its status on the 4,000 footers list, Mt. Guyot does not disappoint because it has a bald summit with 360 degree views. I stopped here for a while to soak in the views and sit in the sunshine before I headed down to the campsite, which is under a mile from this point.
After taking a left off of Bondcliff trail, there is a short but semi steep hike down to the campsite, where you will find the caretakers tent. This is where you stop and pay and check in, this is a good time to ask any questions you might have. The caretakers at the AMC campsites and huts are full of knowledge and experience and can steer you in the right direction. Typically when I stay at the Guyot campsite I either sleep in my tent or I hang up my hammock, so this time I decided I would try sleeping in the shelter. I set up my sleeping pad and sleeping bag in the shelter and sat on the porch outside of the shelter and relaxed before I headed for my next destination: West Bond for sunset. West Bond is conveniently located under a mile from the campsite and has outstanding views.
Watching sunset from the summit of a mountain is incredible, it’s a very special time to be in the woods and you never know what colors you will get. Each sunset is unique as the sun fades away it paints the sky with its colors and light. Sitting atop West Bond for sunset is special in its own way because you are far from everything, technically you are 9 miles from the nearest road in every direction. There are no houses or buildings, just wilderness spread out in front of you for miles. You cant get much farther removed from society and structures in the state of New Hampshire.
One thing that I noticed through years of catching sunsets and sunrises is that sometimes, the best colors happen right before the sun rises or right after the sun sets. So after the sun set on West Bond I waited to see what the sky would do now that the sun said goodnight. I departed the summit to head back to Guyot campsite to get some rest for day two of this adventure.
A side note concerning the shelter: This was my first time in the shelter and though I enjoyed not carrying the extra weight of my tent/hammock, I will most likely not stay in a shelter again. Being a light sleeper it was hard to get to sleep due to a symphony of snores and hearing every time someone adjusted in their sleeping bags. That being said, I tried to get as much rest as I could before waking up to hike Mt. Bond for sunrise.
Haley is a rock star employee for Woodstock Inn Brewery – working front desk, the restaurant & more. She hikes in her free time and is a staff expert if you have questions about trails and hiking in the White Mountains.